The suggestion to write this book came initially from Professor Gopi Chand arang who wanted me to prepare a selection of Firaq’s poetry with its English translation as a token celebration of the poet’s birth centenary. But because of my preoccupation with my previous book, Masterpieces of Modern Urdu Poetry, then in its final stage of publication, the project got considerably delayed, so much so that a reviewer in the course of his write-up on Firaq in The Hindustan limes (Nov. 12, 1997) had to remind me of the unfinished task: “Sahitya Akademi reportedly commissioned an English translation of a selection of Firaq’s poetry by Prof. K.C. Kanda who has five similar books to his credit. Thirteen days after fifty years of Indian independence, Firaq’s centenary year ended. Where is the book?” This book may thus be regarded my belated tribute to the genius of Firaq, who has enriched every branch of Urdu poetry with his authentic and insightful creations, and whose poetry has been described as “the voice of the century,” the twentieth century, over which he had shone as a bright star of the literary firmament.
The book contains a comprehensive sampling of Firaq’s representative poetry in the three genres of ghazal, nazm, and rubai. In all, it contains 60 ghazals, 7 nazms, 23 rubais, and a few selected couplets and qItas. The poems have been carefully selected keeping in view their aesthetic quality and their value as representative specimens of the poet’s art and mind. While translating these poems my attempt has been to preserve the sense and spirit of the original, though it may involve an occasional departure from the literal accuracy of the text. As an important source of the pleasure of Urdu poetry lies in the music of its rhymes, I have attempted rhymed verse in my translations, though I do not hesitate to use assonance in place of rhyme when a suitable rhymed word eludes my grasp.
The book opens with an Introduction which underscores the distinctive features of Firaq‘s poetry, and discusses, with suitable illustrations, his characteristic manner and favorite themes. The second chapter of the book is an English translation of Firaq‘s autobiographical note: Men Zindagi ki Dhoop Chhaaon. Besides this, the book includes a list of important events in the life of Firaq, and a facsimile of the poet’s hand-written page. It also contains a brief collection of the critical comments made on his poetry by some of his famous contemporaries.
The layout of the book is similar to the one adopted In my earlier books on Urdu poetry. Each poem is first given in Urdu calligraphics, which is followed on the opposite page by its English translation, and a Romanized version of the Urdu text. The transliteration should give a feel of the Urdu language even to those readers who are not familiar with Urdu in the Persian script. It should also prove helpful to the learners of Urdu. It is hoped that the book will serve to propagate the pleasures of Urdu poetry and introduce the readers to the multidimensional world of Firaq’s poetry.
I am especially grateful to Professor Gopi Chand Narang without whose suggestion and stimulus, the book may not have come into existence. I am also thankful to Mr. Parkash Chander, a veteran reviewer and lover of Urdu, who provided me with several books and literary journals containing useful material about the life and poetry of Firaq. Thanks are also due to the librarian and staff of the Jamia Millia University, in particular to Mr. Nazar Burny, for allowing me unhindered admittance to the library. Finally, I am beholden to Shri S.K. Ghai, the Chief Managing Director of Sterling Publishers, who has evinced great interest in the publication of this volume.
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